Here’s a few bêtes noire: Religions are the cause of war or I hate musicals and the one that perhaps annoys more than any, I hate country music.
When I hear this last one I’m inclined to respond in a similar way when my 16 year old son declared he didn’t believe in God. ‘That’s interesting,’ I found myself replying. ‘Which version of God is it you don’t believe in?’ Country Music has always been quite a wide catch-all for what was once known as hillbilly music, honky tonk, folk, western swing and bluegrass. Indeed if we allow the term Americana to enter this discussion the term gets so wide as to become meaningless. What usually happens is the person trying to tell you they hate Country Music is fixating on an idea of country that passed sometime before 1973. They might well hate country music but even they would admit that some of the current crop of country artists – Kane Brown, Kelsea Ballerini bare very little relation to the stuff they think they hate.
There’s a lot of country music I hate too and I avoid playing most of it on the AC on a weekly basis. There’s also a lot of rock music, pop music and jazz I hate too – but there’s also enough to love to make spending any time on the stuff I dislike feel like an exercise in time wasting.
All of this was going through my head as I looked up to a poster I’ve kept in my house for the last ten years or so. It was a gift from Diana Jones of a Hatch Print poster of her EP Sparrow. We’ve always loved the print and it was good to be able to tell her again how much we’d treasured the gift. Sparrow was the name of the EP and also the name Diana gave to her 100 year old , 4 string Harmony Martin guitar which she used exclusively on the recording. Diana might well fall into that wide classification of country music or even folk music but what part of her repertoire bears any relation to Wanda Jackson or for that matter, Peter, Paul and Mary is anyone’s guess. Diana is a troubadour in the great tradition of Woody Guthrie, Odessa and Johnny Cash and if some of that feels like country music that’s fine by me.
She was in Glasgow recently to play a show at The Glad cafe which I heard was very good indeed. During the day she stopped by the AC to record some live tracks for us from her reimagined Better Times Will Come album and spent a bit of me talking about the project and the current state of play in her home country. Growing up as an adopted child in New York Diana felt a seemingly inexplicable attraction to rural southern music. It began to make sense when, at 23, she discovered her birth family in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. It’s this great tradition she has tapped into over her recording career. Her last but one album , Song To A Refugee, is a great collection of protest songs based around the experience of exile and asylum and is a powerful record in the great folk tradition.
You’ll enjoy hearing Diana as our special guest on this week’s AC. Listen too for some great new music from Roseanne Reid, Riders of The Canyon, Natalie Merchant and some George Jones. It’s country music – our way and it all starts at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland this Tuesday evening or BBC Sounds whenever it suits. Join me if you can.